General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Should/can anything be done about the amount of time kids spend online or gaming?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) October 18th, 2010

A colleague of mine just shrugged his shoulders and asked, “what can you do?” I told him I’d think about it, because I am confused about this.

His son, age 14, heads home and plays those thumb video games or hangs out on Facebook. My daughter is in her room all the time, hanging with friends. She refuses invitations to go for a walk or to go pumpkin picking. I’d say that 80% of the time she is home, she spends it in her room… with the door closed. “Doing homework.” She does a lot of homework, but not that much.

In generations prior to the internet, it was the television that stole the teens’ attention. My parents solved this by not owning a television. The internet is interactive, but is that enough to redeem it?

I’m not so much opposed to television watching or internet networking or video game playing because I know you can actually learn useful skills from these things. What does concern me is the amount of time that teens spend inside, doing these things.

So, first of all, should anything be done about teens spending so much time indoors. If not, why not? If so, what can or should be done? Is it even realistic to forbid the use of the internet? Or video games or television?

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34 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Cartainly there is stuff you can do. For one, you can refuse to let them have computers in their room. Put the computer or computers in a common area downstairs. It allows much more management of what they are doing and acts as a deterrent.

Second, you can enforce some outdoor time and limit time on the computer.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

You pose some thought provoking questions. I love them.
I think parents should set time limits on video games (but consoles should have that feature too) and limit the time they spend. The Internet can be really useful, so I don’t think they should forbid the use of it period. They can put up parental blocks after checking the kid’s history and seeing where they game.

buckyboy28's avatar

I spend a lot of time on the internet, but I don’t let it affect my social life. I think there’s an important balance there. To forbid internet use isn’t a good idea, but you could limit the time that your daughter is on for. Also, having a computer in her room could be part of the problem. If you could put it in a family area where the door isn’t closed, you would be able to say “Hey, maybe you should go outside and play with some friends”, instead of talking to a closed door.

Aster's avatar

Great answers but imagine my limiting someone’s computer access when I’m on here 8 hrs a day. No; couldn’t do it.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

It’s important for children and teens to have balance in their lives, especially when it comes to media such as TV, Internet and video games.

When I was in high school, I was literally addicted to my computer. I would stay up until 4am sometimes chatting and role-playing online. Aside from a couple hours here and there to eat dinner and do homework, I was basically online from the time I got home from school to whenever I went to bed.

My parents were worried, but I also kept up my grades and was an A+ student, so at least the Internet wasn’t becoming detrimental to me in that way. Besides, they had bigger problems to deal with concerning my older sister, but that’s a different story.

I think my parents could have curbed my Internet addiction a bit if they had tried a bit harder to control my computer use. I had a computer in my room, which was probably a bad idea. We had cable internet, so being online wouldn’t hog the phone line – another form of limitation. We never had parental control on our internet. But most of all, if they had talked to me more and encouraged me to do more outdoor activities. Not that I blame them – I was a nerdy, anti-social teenager and stubborn to boot.

It took until college for me to become more balanced. College, for me, forced me to be more social. I made friends and spent a lot of time with them. Walking around campus every day was a good way of getting more exercise. I was being exposed to a different world then the one I grew up with.

I’m getting a bit off topic, but what I mean to say is this: parent do and should have some control over how much their children are involved in the Internet/video games/TV, but it’s a tough job. Sometimes it’s something people will grow out of. Sometimes it gets to the point where it’s harming the person’s life. My thought is that balance should be encouraged from a young age, so when the child reaches adolescence they can make their own decisions about what and how much media they absorb – and hopefully, it will lead to balance.

Seaofclouds's avatar

My son has limits to how much screen time he is allowed (whether it’s watcing tv, playing video games, or playing on the computer). He is only 8, so he doesn’t have homework that he needs to do on the computer yet. When it is nice out, he goes outside to play after school. When it’s raining, he gets a bit more screen time since there isn’t as much to do in the house.

I think it’s important to be sure our children are getting physical activity, so yes we need to limit screen time and encourage them to be outside.

Ohh and family game nights are a big hit in our family. We all sit at the kitchen table and play various board games all night. We have snacks and enjoy the fun of just spending time together. I recommend these to everyone!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I like the idea of a computer for kids in a family room.

My partner’s 3 kids are in their teens and all 3 are heavy gamers. It’s an expensive pastime I feel the kids should finance themselves through chores/services.

Modern kids don’t seem to want to explore unless an organized roundup has been made and scheduled. Ok, I’m for it. Load them into a car, van or whatever and take them to museums, parks for picnics, lakes for swimming/boating, rivers for rafting/tubing, short jaunts to other towns/cities for exploration, antique malls to look at history they can touch and question, visits to other relatives to learn family history.

Loried2008's avatar

You could set aside a certain amount of time they must spend doing something else besides those things. Parents shouldn’t expect their kids to just know and understand when “enough is enough” and taking it completely away makes no sense because then your child will never understand moderation. You must also be an example, I know my mother would always complain about all of us being on the computer but she would sit there twice as long. (She still does) These things are time consumers and we must all learn how to detach from our electronics and get out in the sunlight or at least entertain ourselves with books or music etc… But to “take away” what will surely be a big part of life for you kids is not something I’d recommend.

I say this because my mother would take away anything and it was hard for me to become my own person because of it. Home schooled and very sheltered. She’d even take away my books or Disney movies if she thought I was spending to much time with anything. How was I supposed to develop? You have to give them a little room, and trust is key. I don’t agree that you should take the computer out of her room, but rather be more involved with her. Find something you and your children can do together so that you all have shut out the electronic means of entertainment.

nebule's avatar

My son is young and he loves the Wii and it does get to the point sometimes when I have to limit it. For one thing it’s downstairs and he doesn’t have any technology in his bedroom (but at the age of four I wouldn’t expect them to have that kind of stuff in their rooms) so I can obviously keep a close eye on what he’s doing and for how long.

The point for me is that he’s expending energy (he plays a lot of the sports games) and learning things…he learns about numbers and words and many different skills. This probably could be done other ways of course but he loves it and learning through play is a big thing over here in the UK.

I do make sure that he gets balanced play though and he will often turn it off himself and do other things now like play with cars, make me an imaginary lunch, draw etc. We also go out for walks and do Geocaching together. He does also play on the internet on CBeebies (nothing else) which is highly educational.

I realise that this is probably not hugely relevant to the teenage issue but I do think that it can be a tool whilst not taking over your life. But yes, it should be limited because life is not just about screens…it’s about real interaction and engaging in other activities..otherwise we might as well live in a virtual world, which IMO would not be a good thing on so many levels.

nebule's avatar

@Loried2008 GA Yes, there has to be trust as well… but that’s a whole other thread…and could go on about that for hours! Trusting kids… we have to give them their life and teach them to be responsible for it… guide them rather than put them in prisons.

ducky_dnl's avatar

I went to the apple store and it’s weird when little 4 year old kids know how to work the computers better than me. I’m 18! It is scary and kids need to be limited… I try to limit myself to three or fours hours, but it’s hard. When I have kids, they won’t be allowed on the computer until they’re 16. 15 year olds and younger have no business facebooking and stuff. I have a feeling computers won’t exist in the near future. Also, take away your kids keyboards and phones after a few hours. If it’s the weekend, give their stuff back to them at 6pm and let them stay on till 9 or so. Also keep the tv off as well.

Loried2008's avatar

@nebule Thank you and so could I! lol I agree with you 100% I think what you are doing with your child is awesome :)

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you guys! Interesting conversation. I would appreciate people addressing the “why” part of this issue. Why should we limit their time on the screen or internet? Is it just to get them to do physical stuff, or is it also to get them away from some kind of negative influence screen time has? If the latter, what is the negative influence?

I greatly appreciate the input of those of you who are in your teens and twenties. @ducky_dnl I find your point that there may not even be computers in the near future interesting. If we could all wear our computers and have most communication interfaces (I’m not sure about video, unless it is projected on a pair of glasses), then maybe we’d all be outside or playing other things because we no longer are tied to our computers/phone/everything device. They would be tied to us.

nebule's avatar

@ducky_dnl at risk of sounding patronising which I don’t want to be at all, I think it’s very easy to make those kinds of claims and intentions when you don’t have kids and I would urge you to consider how much they will be missing out on by being so restrictive, not to mention how your child will feel when all the other kids are talking about the latest computer game or the social networking they’ll be doing that your child isn’t involved in and how she or he doesn’t have a clue what they’re on about, possibly resulting in complete humiliation and social disassociation….

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Wundayatta: re: Why? In order for young people to get out and touch what they see instead of rely on virtual representations. Not just exercise but socialization, inurring to the human condition, I guess.

rooeytoo's avatar

Here are my thoughts and it addresses the why time should be limited. As I move about the city I see kids (and adults) walking along with wires coming out of their ears, or their eyes and fingers working over a cell phone, or sitting around with a hand held game console. And I wonder do their minds ever have a chance to rest? My mind needs to rest or I get hyper. And probably more importantly I wonder if they ever have an opportunity to just think. I love to let my mind wander, dream up the next carving I want to start, think about what a great photo that scene would be, wonder how the guy in the crane so far from his target can be so precise. Will these kids ever learn to be creative? How can ideas form if they never have peace?

And of course, I do think all of the sedentary activity lends itself to the epidemic of overweight kids.

If you can do it, the time limit is a good idea and no computers or televisions in bedrooms would be a good place to start. But it might start an insurrection in your home.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

How many people have ever taken a blanket and laid it out on a rooftop in order to lie back in silence and watch the sky or lie down on the ground for at least an hour and feel the earth move and make sounds?

Loried2008's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I did that a lot when I was a teenager (not on the roof though) when I got kicked out at 17 I slept under the stars a few times too lol

Coloma's avatar

Well, at risk of sounding like an old

I was a child in the 60;s and while I watched all the classic 60’s TV, cartoons, primetime, still…the total amount of my TV viewing was maaaybe 2 hours a day on average.

We went outside and PLAYED, used our imagination and were ACTIVE!

My mom kicked me off of Sat. morning cartoons by about 10 a.m. and told me to call a friend or get outside and DO something! haha

My daughter is almost 23 ( next month ) while I tried to limit her TV, internet, video game scene she and most of her friends and boyfriend do spend a lot of their free time playing video games still.

Admittedly, I think that Red Dead Redemption or whatever that western themed game is called, is extremly cool! lol

I think technology is magnificent and awe inspiring but, it has absolutly created a couch potato generation and in that respect I think it is unhealthy.

Plucky's avatar

I think time limits are extremely important. And, as long as the child is a minor ..I don’t think there should be any tv/internet/computer/gaming device in their bedroom.

I also don’t think young children should be on social networks such as facebook (nor should they have their own phones). By “young” I mean around 10 years and under. But, me being a “grey area” type of person, it can really depend on the child. Some children are incredibly mature, respectful and responsible ..others are not.

The reason?
...Because they are in fact children.
...Because there is a world out there that deserves to be touched, seen, heard, tasted and smelled. Our children need to experience that, first hand, if we want them to respect the world around them.

The digital age is absolutely wonderous but so is the world around us.

Remember the old saying ..take everything in moderation.

Zyx's avatar

What’s with the hating on technology? Computers are better than books for learning, and basically anything else to do with information. People are already working on “Augmented Reality” to replace sitting in a room with a screen. Basically you put on glasses that change everything around you (or some of the stuff around you) to fit a program.

I plan to be converted into a cyborg first chance I get and I don’t see why people have a problem with that. The government already wants to implant everyone with chips and when the technology to become a cyborg becomes available the people that don’t partake will be viewed as amish for missing out on the benefits.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@Zyx Computers are better than books for learning/information? I disagree. The Internet is a huge source of information, but it has not gotten to the point (and I doubt it ever will) where it’s completely reliable. Sites like Wikipedia are good for basic information, but not nearly as comprehensive as an encyclopedia – AND you don’t know where the information came from. Someone could have just made half that stuff up.
But that’s a different debate. Mind you, I love computers. But just because I love them doesn’t mean I fully trust them over… well… reality.

Technology is important and integral to the lives of an increasingly growing part of our population. Soon, there will be almost no one in industrialized countries who do not use computers somehow in their daily lives. The problem with this is that we have become so focused on what’s on the screen that we forget to consider the world around us and our own selves.

Humans are part of the natural world, and we should respect that and act as such.

Coloma's avatar

My theory is that kids are becoming more sun sensitive!

Little vampires that are shocked when they emerge into natural light!

Technologies contribution to evolution maybe? haha

Yep, I can see it now, another 200 years and people will be born with paler skin unable to tolerate sun exposure during peak hours.
Smaller, shrinking, light sensitive eyes and wider behinds to accomodate adaptation to artificial light and sedentary living.

I think it’s possible that we will see a return to our original Mudpuppy ancestors!

Maybe we have reached a place where it is about de-volving back and starting over again as a species. lolol

Sarcasm's avatar

For anyone who isn’t familiar with me, I am that kid who spends all of his time on the computer. So I’m sure my opinion is skewed.

I think unless your child really suffers from issues due to lack of activity (Does she seem to get winded walking to the car?), there’s not really a reason to intervene. She has a hobby. I don’t think it’s any less valid than a love for books, or cooking, or football.
I think in the 21st century, knowledge of how to work with computers is more important than the other 3 hobbies I listed, as far as careers are concerned.

I never did physical activities because, honestly, they were all boring. It’s not like I’ve been addicted to the computer, if there’s an entertaining activity being offered, I have no issue shutting down the computer and leaving it off for hours or days. The issue is in finding that entertaining activity.
It’s hard to bring yourself to dedicate a few hours a day to doing something that you find interesting and non-beneficial.

I think that my personality lead me to my love of computers, and not vice-versa. If I was alive in a time before computers, I would probably be the kid who slammed the door and cracked open a book to read or played, gasp, D&D.

@NeizvestnayaNot just exercise but socialization, inurring to the human condition, I guess.” I’m not sure if this is much of a secret to the outside world, but there is plenty of socializing on the computer. Websites like Fluther, voice chats, video chats. Hell, a lot of computer games require teamwork for success. I’m not sure what socialization outside of the computer really gives that socialization on the computer doesn’t.

@rooeytoo Sedentary lifestyles certainly don’t help with the obesity, but I’m far more worried about the food we as a society have become accustomed to consuming.

@ParaParaYukiko Any bit of information that can be found in a book is on the internet. And more easily available. By the time you’ve driven to your library, I’ll have already found the answer. And yes, it isn’t entirely reliable, but Comparing Wikipedia to the encylopedia is a bad choice. There is citation on Wikipedia for a reason. If anything looks dubious, look it up. report it. There is a log kept of every. single. change done in Wikipedia, even if you just change a period to a comma. It’s a more serious operation than you’d think.

joeysefika's avatar

I think it comes down to the parents, every generation has it’s vices and it’s time for parents to stop hiding behind all this computer age bullshit and actually parent.

tifa's avatar

I think that removing television or a computer can be more harmful than helpful because though it can be considered “an idiot box” its all about HOW these are used> A lot of times they are used for entertainment purposes and people forget that it can be used to help inform us about whats going on in the world, or the weather, or even education (there are educational tv programs,websites, and games they just tend to be ignored).

But i believe that taking away a computer from a family in this day and age can limit a person because a lot of jobs and school projects require the knowledge and use of a computer, and i understand that some people have no experience with this and can become easily confused…

But asking fluther for advice on how to deal with a situation like this is in itself a perfect example of the benefits of the internet. i think you should really just limit their use of it though, maybe let them use it in some sort of reward type system…(i had a lot more to say but i lost my train of thought >.<)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Sarcasm: Face to face socialization is super important for kids as they grow. Take a look at kids home schooled from a really young age and their peers who’ve been in classrooms with other kids outside their family relations- the home schooled kids stand out as awkward and have a harder time mingling, finding their place in pecking orders, cliches, etc.

A kid should be able to go outside their home and feel like they know what’s expected of them and have at least a small arsenal of reactions to different situations like how to compose themselves in markets, sit down restaurants, shopping malls, family gatherings, field trips, businesses. I’m used to seeing a toddler cling to a parent in public but when you see that in a pre teen and teen then it’s sad, a delayed blossoming. IMO

Blondesjon's avatar

I find the irony of this question being asked and answered on the Internet to be an answer in and of itself.

Coloma's avatar


Aaah, a truism! lol

Yes, but us ‘old’ folks do move more than a lot of youngsters!

YARNLADY's avatar

I see no need to limit the time they spend, unless they are misbehaving, such as not getting the education they should, or not doing their household chores.

Ask the pediatrician about the physical activity part of it, and see that they stay healthy. Other than that, I see no difference than when I was a child and spent 75% of my time in my room reading novels.

Silence04's avatar

These generations are much different than the ones prior. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet and online games, in fact it will be beneficial for their future.

If the parent is concerned about not being able to interact with thier kid, they should try to play some games with them.

Joybird's avatar

In my opinion this is part of a paradigm we have all bought into. Obviously I’ve bought in too to some degree, otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this. We have been marketed an idea that technology is all good…that it equals advance. I don’t think that is necessarily true. But because so many people have bought into this notion it makes for ostracism towards those who don’t buy in and those who would attempt to curb the negative thinking and behaviors they see arising out of the use of technology. Even the research done on computer use becomes of battle ground of pros and cons. On the one hand playing these games all the time increases the brains reaction time….but on the other hand it foster Autistic like traits in individuals who spend alot of time playing them.
Can you restrict access to technology. I work in a class room and I can say emphatically that, “yes you can”. It’s a matter of unplugging and knowing how to keep things shut down and drawing people back into more fruitful social interactions. At home it may mean just taking the router and unplugging it and locking it in a fire safe. Laugh out loud. “don’t look at me like that!” A parent does what a parent must sometimes in order to see better interpersonal skills developed and honed.
If you are going to unplug then you have to also be willing to offer other options that make a persons time personally fulfilling and meaningful. TV is not an optimal substitute.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, absolutely.

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